The annual town budget retreat is today, at Coleman Hall of First Presbyterian Church. As always, I want to thank the church for sharing with the town this great meeting facility. The retreat will begin at 9 a.m. It will run through mid-afternoon.
The first part of the retreat will be reports from the town manager and department heads. These presentations will identify the budget needs and priorities of each department.
As usual the big budget items will come from the public works department, which includes water and sewer, the electric, road and sanitation departments. A preview of needs in this area suggests significant spending. For instance, a garbage truck will need to be replaced.
The constant operation of these vehicles impacts their serviceability. A garbage truck can cost around $200,000. We will also be addressing several upgrades and maintenance items in the water department, including replacing old water lines. I anticipate a substantial list of paving projects from our town public works director and engineer. Paving roads should be a top priority for this upcoming budget.
In the parks and recreation area I don’t see any large, immediate items. Nevertheless, I think it is time to initiate plans to replace the old Houston House on Foreman Road. It currently serves as an after-school center for children.
I don’t foresee major expenditures in the Police Department except for one. The state is encouraging all law enforcement agencies to convert to the Viper radio system that is currently used by the state patrol. This system provides better coverage and connects all agencies under one seamless system. Our police department needs this upgrade.
We will also be looking at Fire Department Capital needs. This review will be in concert with the new fire station that is under design.
After the staff and commissioners finish their wonderful box lunches, we will hear two reports from local groups. At around 1 p.m., Kaye McHan of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce will provide an update of Chamber plans and activities. I believe it is important to work with the chamber in addressing community issues such as downtown aesthetics and appearance.
Around 1:30 p.m., Cindy Trevathan of the Performing Arts Center will give the board an update on the building of the new theater venue that will house both PAC and Playhouse events. The arts have a tremendous impact on the economic vitality of a community.
After these two presentations the town board will go into closed session to consult with our attorney concerning the contract with WideOpen Networks to lease dark fiber and operate board band services from the town’s new fiber optic system. I anticipate the board coming out of closed session to consider approval of the contract. Upon the signing of the contract, WideOpen will setup operations of the network as the fiber optic network nears completion sometime in May or June.
FYI: A town staff representative attended a county health and emergency response meeting concerning implementation plans if a corona virus outbreak occurs.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor